Mr.Martin seemed to have all the bases covered and our little homozygous paint stallion Pistol Packin Frekles (a.k.a.”Pete”) was on his way to Painted River Ranch. It was during one of the worst storms in Saskatchewan history. Trains stopped dead in their tracks due to the blowing wind and snow. Our 2000 lb bulls had been walking over 8’high slab fences due to the hard packed drifts in their pens. Thru a series of determined haulers, our stallion made his way to us.
We waited for our road to get opened before we could meet the hauler in North Battleford. We had no where to put him since everything was under snow, including all the gates to our corral system. It was a crazy time. Pete seemed to adapt and adjust well to his new environment, despite the bad weather.
The spring of 2014 is a bit of blur to me, but I managed to get all the mares foaled and 80 head of cattle calved pretty much on my own. Bruce had been diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer in the spring of 2014. I had began running him to ultrasound, biopsy and diagnostic appointments to determine how bad the cancer was in his body. It would be May by the time we met with oncologists.
When Bruce had settled in palliative care, talks of finance and Pistol Packin Frekles began. We had a lot of conversations in Bruce’s final days and every conversation brought a new series of tears and fears.
Bruce admitted he knew he was sick back in 2013, he just didn’t know how sick he was. I learned that he had taken a loan out for the stallion using the cattle as collateral. The day the loan was approved, was the day we set flight for Colorado. Bruce suggested I sell the cows and pay the stallion off. But the fact was, Pete had paid for himself with the sale of his first foal crop.
Bruce told me that if we had a good stallion he could rest assured that I would keep breeding, raising and training horses and doing what I love. The stallion was Bruce’s guarantee that I would be Ok long after he was gone. How could I argue with that? The stallion and his offspring would look after me financially and he wouldn’t have to worry about that.
Bruce had a couple of requests of me. All of which I have fulfilled. He told me to be sure to show the Pistol Packin Frekles and “he would do me right”. In 2016, with the help of my friend and mentor, Kathy Donnelly – we showed the stallion for Bruce. I was so impressed with the little horses abilities and attitude. He taught me so much and isn’t done teaching me yet. Pete was one of the best grief counselors I had ever met. Very intuitive to emotion. I cried a ton of tears in that boys mane. I love working with his foals and starting them under saddle and have a 2 year old gelding I will swing a leg over this fall.
As I showed Pistol Packin Frekles, I knew Bruce was watching the whole performance. It was a really emotional year showing that horse; knowing that Bruce had bought him for me to help me financially long after he was gone. How much foresight that must’ve taken. I had a few rides around the show pen that summer, knowing Ol Rancher was doubling right behind me. Many times a had to swallow back the tears as the announcer mentioned our name. Pete will always be that special horse that keeps me connected to Rancher.
That little horse will always be my gift from heaven. My wallow in self pity was short lived when I stopped to realize just how lucky I really was.
I made the video above “You Should Be Here”. Photos at the beginning of the video were taken at Rock Lake, where we tapped a plaque on a lone rock and spread his ashes to the wind. We did many mountain pack trips out from this area and I know he would approve of the spot.
I am reminded every day when I go to feed that stallion, the gift, and the crazy story of how and why Pistol Packin Frekles made Painted River Ranch his home.